Carnatic music is an ancient tradition of South Indian classical music that dates back for centuries. It is a complex system of music that requires both artistic and technical improvisation. The use of the violin for Carnatic music, both as an accompanying and solo instrument, was introduced in the 1700’s. Since then, the violin has become the ubiquitous instrument needed for every classical Carnatic performance. The violin is very apt for Carnatic music, as it comes closest to the human voice in rendering intricate expressions (gamakas). The intricate finger movements, techniques, and patterns needed to bring out these emotions from the violin have been developed over generations.
Susheela Narasimhan started learning Carnatic violin when he was 10 years old, and has been pursuing it ever since. He studied with gurus Sri. H.K. Venkatram (a disciple of Sri. Lalgudi Jayaraman) and Sri. H.K. Narasimha Murthy (a disciple of Sri. Parur M.S. Gopalakrishnan) in South India. After relocating to the San Francisco Bay Area, Susheela has continued to learn, perform, teach, and support Carnatic violin. He has been a teacher of Carnatic violin for 16 years and organizes a free concert series.
As a current master artist in ACTA’s Apprenticeship Program, Susheela will work with apprentice Durga Ganesh. Under Susheela’s guidance, Durga will complete an in-depth analysis of the evolution of Carnatic music based on the development of key ragas (melodic lines) by major composers from the fourteenth century to today.
The following video features Susheela (center) and his apprentice Durga (right) on violin.